Archive for January, 2012

Revitalising Professionalism

[Written over on the other site, but thought people might be interested]

Seggie J. Revitalising professionalism. S. Afr. Med. J. 2011 Aug.;101(8):508–509. PMID 21920118

This is yet another cracker from R&R in the Fast Lane via Sa’ad Lahri. There’s not a chance I would have found this paper otherwise so go check it out.

It’s a short, narrative review of some of the debate surrounding the nature of medical education and in particular the idea and definition of what it means for medicine to be a profession.

Some nice quotes:

professionalism is ‘a set of values, behaviours, and relationships that underpin the trust the public has in doctors’

learning of professional behaviour and absorption of professional values depends on strong, engaged relationships with positive role models

there should exist a moral contract between the medical profession and society

I want to talk a little bit more about the last one, about what the “moral contract” bit might mean.

I read a lot of a chap called Hauerwas and he describes medicine as drawing it’s moral authority from a society that refuses to abandon others who need help. Our society dedicates large amounts of money and some of its finest people to care for the ill – this in itself is a profound moral statement. Now I know that there are sound societal, economic reasons for doing health care but I really don’t think that’s why groups of humans do it.

The fact that medicine rarely cures many of the diseases that we attend to makes it even more morally significant.

For us to remain a profession (as opposed to being technicians) we must not neglect the moral aspect of what we do.

Here’s a Hauerwas quote for you to ponder.

Medicine is a profession determined by the moral commitment to care for the ill… The ability to sustain such care in the face of suffering and death is no easy enterprise, for the constant temptation is to try to eliminate suffering through the agency of medicine rather than let medicine be the way that we care for each other in our suffering… Indeed I suspect the increasing technological character of medicine with the correlative growth in specialisation reflects the attempt to substitue scientific expertise for the moral commitment necessary to maintain medicine as a coherent profession.

Suffering Presence 

Notre Dame Press: 1986; P17

Before anyone gets too upset, a moral commitment to care for the ill in no way prohibits technology or scientific expertise or so many of the things that I think really matter about emergency medicine, but in a rather twee and inadequate aphorism we need to be willing and open to care before we can cure.


UPDATE: Domhnall has written on something similar before so go read it too.

Volf on Embrace

in the presence of the divine trinity, we need to strip down the drab grey of our own self-enclosed selves and cultures and embrace others so that their bright colours, painted on our very selves, will begin to shine.


Volf, J. M. G., & Volf, M. (1997). A Spacious Heart Essays on identity and belongingHarrisburg: Trinity Press International.

A little more Vonnegut

Back in 1931… the Great Depression was going on, so that the station and the streets teemed with homeless people, just as they do today. The newspapers were full of worker layoffs and farm foreclosures and bank failures, just as they are today. All that has changed, in my opinion, is that, thanks to television we can now hide a Great Depression. We may even be hiding a third world war.

Kurt Vonnegut

Bluebeard p82



A little Vonnegut

“the human condition can be summed up in just one word: embarrassment.”

Kurt Vonnegut
Paladin 1989

Theologians of the slums

This blog has somewhat morphed into a way for me to vent and explore the stuff I’m studying. Perhaps it always was it’s just now I find it much more useful!

Found this from Marcella Athaus-Reid in a piece criticising liberation theology for being insufficient.

Unless we have theologians from the slums (not just living there as part of a church project) the liberationist argument of theological representatives contradicts itself.

Althaus-Reid M. Another Possible World. London: SCM Press; 2007. p37

This is a big question as it seems that the voice of a rich, white prod is irrelevant to the conversation. My very existence is complicit in the systems that keep people oppressed.

But it also outlines another problem – what do theologians of the slums look like? Indeed how can they do theology, when it is required that you not only read and write but are highly educated and do work in the context of the academy. It seems, in order to be a theologian of the slums, you must leave the slums and become as middle class as the rest of this.

The whole thing seems a bit irresolvable as it stands.

Any thoughts welcome.


January 2012